Magnetic storms

I’ve been thinking about the Magnetic Island house. Looking at my photo again, it looks more like the homes we saw on TV after the Asian Tsunami than a place in affluent Oz. I guess it just goes to show that even the UK migrants’ dream land has pockets of inequality.

I visited Magnetic Island in a month where the prevailing theme was destruction. I flew to Australia a week after turning 18, a couple of days after my final A-level exam and about two hours after being dumped, a rucksack of clothes and a friend in hand.

Within one week I found myself beside a motorway returning from the Western Australian desert to Perth, the bus I’d been travelling in ablaze in front of me.

A few minutes into the bus fire we heard from an Australian teenager that there had been a bombing in London. The message he received, and read excitedly to us, was that “the tower” had been bombed. We thought from this meagre information that Big Ben or Tower Bridge had been attacked. It was of course July 7.

We never did find out where this red herring came from, but we spent the next few hours worried and confused as the replacement bus rattled back to the city and our phone calls home repeatedly failed. Thank goodness no-one we knew was hurt.

Later on in the month I also destroyed a scooter by flying into the side of a Ute, which in turn destroyed a fair bit of skin on my arms, stomach, hips and legs, and ripped massive holes in my trousers!

But going back to Maggie Island, the house I saw there fit the refrain of destruction. The island was ruggedly beautiful, with lush green palms sprouting from dark clambering rocks and spindly wooden huts propped up on stilts above the cliffs. It rained heavily for our whole stay, wind lashing against the windows and tossing salt into the hostel kitchens and washblocks, all of which were also wooden huts.

We discovered that the rocks were sharp enough to break coconuts easily, as were one dog’s teeth. We also discovered that a roll-down plastic “window” isn’t sturdy enough to keep a whole bar dry and warm, and that during cyclones it is difficult to ship Vodka over from the mainland. Perhaps the real mystery of the house with the front ripped off, on such a turbulent island, was why it was the only building in such a state.

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